Vincent Van Beethoven has created a unique musical universe with his album Needle and Thread. For instance, one track titled “The Map” includes both singing and Van Beethoven speaking in a spooky, echoing voice. It’s followed by “In a New Light,” driven by acoustic piano.
Although the latter starts out subdued, Van Beethoven eventually switches to a thundering, assertive voice on it. The album is said to be about facing and dealing with psychological issues, and the wide-ranging sonic moods expressed mirror this description. It’s a little like a Tears For Fears full-length, as it gets heavy in here, and quick.
With “One Day,” he has created a lovely, quiet song. It sounds like a straightforward love song, lyrically. Along with its keyboard backing, it also features an extended electric guitar solo. At almost five
minutes long, it’s nearly epic length in pop music standards. It has the feel of an anthem, a little like Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Van Beethoven goes for something brighter with “When the World is Dark.” It has a propulsive electronic groove, with plenty of ‘80s musical elements/sounds coloring its overall vibe. Lyrically, it’s a song that calls for keeping a spirit of hope alive, even when circumstances may
appear to be dire. Granted, nothing is ever ‘all in your mind.’ With that said, though, attitude has much to do with how we best face problems. Sometimes we can find light – even when “the world is dark” –
just by searching diligently for illumination, which may be obscured temporarily. Van Beethoven sings this one enthusiastically, as one who knows what he’s singing about. It’s as though he’s singing about pushing through a dark spell, even while he’s kicking against the darkness himself.
With all of the sonic elements incorporated in these songs, the album closes with the relatively sparsely arranged “Only Time.” It’s been said only time will tell, and this song’s lyrics are a comment on that
saying. We just don’t know what the future holds, nor can we ever. This can be frustrating and make us restless. Nevertheless, many times in life, we just need to wait. Patience may be a virtue, but – if we’re
being honest – it’s a tough thing to do for most of us. Van Beethoven sings it gently and slowly, like someone who is being extra intentional about practicing patience. The song’s tempo perfectly matches its message.
Although Van Beethoven sings a lot, this 12-track album opens ominously with a swirling instrumental titled “Calamity Unravelling.” It sounds futuristic and science fiction-esque. The next track, though, “Here We Go,” is much more down to earth as it begins with nature sounds before Van Beethoven’s piano and vocal enters the mix.
By the way, Vincent Van Beethoven isn’t this artist’s real name. He is actually Joe Finstrom, a Minneapolis musician and audio engineer. It took him five years to complete this self-produced project, but it was
clearly created with much love and care. The best music is always the most personal music, and Needle and Thread certainly comes straight from Finstrom’s heart. It is both heartening and emotionally empowering.